AROUND a decade ago, the Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning (DELWP) turned the Jam Jerrup foreshore into a science experiment. The aim was to determine if a rock wall would hold back the forces of nature better than groynes or mangroves.
It’s a familiar story all along our Bass Coast. These images are each worth more than a thousand words. Behind the rock, the sand has stabilised and vegetation has returned. Though the rock repels tidal and storm surges, all that energy as to go somewhere and this has caused increased scouring at the end of the wall.
From that point the exposed cliff is wearing away at the rate of two metres a year. There are 300 metres of foreshore being eroded and at some points the road, trees and powerlines are a mere 14 metres away from today’s high tide mark. Do the maths.
This is the area where the groynes, along with a sullen mangrove planting, are supposed to deflect the forces of nature. They don’t. The Lang Lang Foreshore Committee, including concerned residents of Jam Jerrup, have asked DELWP to extend the rock wall another 300 metres, starting with the critical 100m where the water remorselessly nears the road.
DWELP can’t afford to follow through on the result of their experiment so the committee has decided to allocate some of the income derived from its caravan park toward a DIY project.
To raise the $100,000 estimated cost of stage one they have also approached Bass Coast Shire and will soon be knocking on the door of the newly elected local member. In the lead-up to the federal election, they plan to take their wish list to the federal candidates for Monash too. There is even talk of an environmental levy or special charge scheme to fund works that will save the main road.
Further down the coast, at Grantville, debate about mangroves has raged for years, with some being ripped out within days of their planting. The odd plastic planter tube can still be found around the water’s edge.
The Grantville sea wall became a footpath many years ago as the water overwhelmed the concrete and washed away the earth that was meant to support the wall.
Some home owners spend their weekends re-arranging their own backyard rock and concrete walls to stave off the inundation.
On another edge of our shire, the shifting sands of Anderson Inlet have caused the Inverloch SLSC tower to be moved three times in four years while the Ayr Creek lagoon continues to be the subject of debatable inaction.
Over at Cowes last year, sand had to be hastily added to bolster the sand dune.
In December, a couple of concerned citizens, Aileen Vening and Michael Nugent, made a presentation to council asking us to create a local climate change advisory body to try and get some co-ordinated shire and region wide action to preserve our coast.
Council has many such committees that deal with matters relating to emergency management, access and inclusion and art, to name a few. We will be re-allocating councillors to all our current committees in February.
A climate action advisory committee could, at least, become a go-to source of answers to end the ad-hocery.
Beyond the obvious, immediate concerns that Michael and Eileen raised, they also asked for a report on the impact on council’s long-term financial plans. They asked if we can afford not to take action now to reduce the burden that our children will have to bear.
One of the strategies that must come into play is greater co-ordination of the management of all our foreshores. Currently over 20 separate entities control our coastline in Bass Coast alone. Then there is South Gippsland to our east with Mornington and Cardinia to our west.
Mornington Peninsula, through its support for development of the Port of Hastings, should probably be included as a manageable threat to our blue wedge.
AGL’s lunatic plan to pump masses of cooled and chemically treated water into Western Port while drilling under Ramsar wetland, just to reach Pakenham, is the latest in a long line of existential threats that include plans to industrialise French Island (fortunately unsuccessful, so far), depleting sea grass to insulate Melbourne houses and building a container port just because there is a deep channel through one small part of the fragile eco-system.
The question that Michael and Aileen put to us was “When the current five year olds are 25, will we be able to tell them that we did everything we possibly could when we had the chance?”
Personally, right now, I’d answer no.